Friday, December 14, 2012

Government Sanctions vs. Social Stigma

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people, it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." John Adams

"First, I suggest that the traditional use of ostracism and censure educated society on the proper ties between people, God, and community....Second, I maintain that proper and judicious use of social sanctions prevents far more problems and misery than it creates....Finally, I argue that no community can succeed without ostracism and censure." Rabbi Daniel Lapin

"Not every bad idea should be illegal." William F. Buckley 

One of my great frustrations in life is the notion that just because you discuss morality, you automatically want to pass laws against immoral activity.  This distinction genuinely confuses some, while others deliberately blur the lines.  Put simply: some activities that should be legal should also be socially stigmatized.

Promiscuity is a great example.  Very few people want to turn the sin of fornication into a crime, but that doesn't make the sin of fornication socially acceptable.  Individuals who repeatedly engage in this activity can pay a social price without facing jail time.

Racism is another great example; stigmatizing (real) racists solves the existing problem whereas laws mandating affirmative action and 'non-discrimination' create new problems.

This is a distinction many libertarians miss.  Limited government does not require acceptance of every perverted idea man can devise.  If you are serious about reducing the size, scope, power, and spending of government, then restoring social sanctions is a precondition.

No society can survive absent external restrictions on the activities of individual members.  Law is a blunt instrument that invites unintended consequences, and should be used sparingly.  Social stigma, on the other hand, enforces societal morality in a way that allows us to preserve daily life without becoming a police state.


  1. I have another example of something immoral that should remain legal: Christianity.

    The belief in hell, for example, is unarguably stupid, evil, and grossly immoral, but we shouldn't imprison you Christians just because you're all too stupid to figure out that magic isn't real.

    1. Heavenly Father,

      I would like to thank you for this opportunity to serve you and spread your word with your child squareandrare. Lord I ask you to comfort Brother squareandrare in his spiritual affliction. I ask this in Jesus name.


  2. You didn't say "abracadabra," so the magic didn't work.

    I understand that you think you can psychically communicate with a 2000-year-old water-walking carpenter, but that doesn't make you moral or enlightened. It makes you stupid.


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